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August 26, 2015

Massage as Meditation: 4 Thoughts To Ponder.

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I don’t call myself a “massage therapist.”

Only things like cans of soup and candy bars should have labels—and I certainly don’t call myself a masseuse (and unless you like a lot of elbow, you’d probably better not call me that either).

I thought massage would be a great career choice because I could help people. I was thinking more of premature babies (massage helps those wee ones add the ounces). I’m not so sure I wanted to help just any body, but babies seemed pretty benign. I’ve yet to rub any infants with the squirming and un-delighted exception of my own.

But I did eventually grow up and move on to work on full-size human beings.

I’ve never been a “touchy feely” type, and this does and doesn’t work when you are a massage therapist. It works in that you can remain detached and do your deep tissue duties, much like a surgeon can slice into flesh without incurring PTSD or episodes of Olympic gut hurling. It doesn’t work in that you really must connect to that person with only a few layers of insulation between their nakedness and your expertise. Otherwise, the person might as well go the furniture store and play with the massage chairs, while enduring the disgusted glances of the commission-paid employees.

Connection is key here. On our end, it can be intermittent and unpredictable. Whether you receive a good massage or not depends on four factors. They are:

1. The Fit:

Massagists (this is writing world, so I can call us that) typically find it a little difficult to work on the smaller-framed of you. You ain’t got much to work with and sometimes we feel like pups who haven’t quite grown into our paws. It’s during your session that we wish we could conjure up about five sets of soft and pliable baby hands that would fit into the delicateness of your frame. If that were possible, we’d probably sneak out for a coffee break while baby hands made magic time. But seriously, sometimes we get a person on our table and it all just works. There’s a fit, no awkward corners or sharp edges. Just like jigsaw, everything falls into place. We hope you notice, because this is the pièce de résistance of our craft.

2. The Flow:

A seasoned therapist will acquire an impeccable flow to their work. Everything connects. While you lay afloat on our massage cloud, your endorphin-laced brain might ponder that this must be how cake feels when it’s being frosted or perhaps how a lump of dough feels on its way to becoming a robust, well-risen loaf of bread. In your Swedish stupor, you might also wonder (well, I have) how your therapist just magically appeared on the other side of the table. We actually teleport, but you can call it “massagic” (another writing world word). The flow will put you into a somatic trance as you lay there, nudged into nothingness by the rhythm of the waves that roll over you.

3. The Zen

Am I (your massagist) feelin’ it? Well, I’d better be. That’s what you pay me for.

Your therapist is almost always a certain type of person: serene, unflappable, zenny. Most of the time, we have a reservoir of tranquility that we can call on once the lights dim and the soothing tunes commence. Sometimes we have to fake it until it slips into the room and quietly clicks into place. The hallmark of zen in the massage room is quiet, but I’ve found that once we wade a few feet into the session, people won’t always notice minor, inadvertent commotion due to the quietness of their mind. That right there is the good stuff.

4. The Zone:

This is the effortless place you eventually get to when you do massage. It’s a place with flow and fit and zen. If you could see it (you can’t because your eyes are closed), you’d see that it’s a dance, like Swan Lake happening all around you while you are unawares. This is where your therapist becomes the bodywork—the healing hands of a benevolent being that summons its wisdom and works its beauty into your bones. We let our bricks fall and we attempt to move you and make you well, or at least better for a little while.

When you’ve found a therapist who combines all of these elements, it becomes like meditation. Massage connects you to yourself, brings all of your parts together; it centers you. Your therapist works your muscles, and your mind becomes present in that moment and in that muscle. It’s pretty dang amazing to journey through your body on an excursion where someone else is in the driver’s seat and you just get to be. Snoring, drooling, twitching and farting make for a more scenic journey, so enjoy the ride. (Personally, I don’t mind if you try to clench that last one in until your session is complete.)

So there you have it. For your enjoyment and relaxation purposes, it’s best if you lay there dreaming that we are channeling butterfly wings and beautiful things while we do our work. It’s likely that we are somewhere between here and there, reality and other realms, and it’s entirely possible we are trying to memorize our grocery list enough to be able to jot it down once we kick you out of our glorious sanctuary.

And please: Tip well, but don’t pay us any mind. Just shut your eyes, still your soul and enjoy the ride.

 

Author: Dawn Raymond

Editor: Evan Yerburgh

Image: Flickr

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